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50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams

by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting After the more than 20 years that we have spent in the litigation consulting business, we don't hear very many questions that we’ve never heard before. However, this week I did hear one, and the story is worth sharing because it goes to the heart of how a truly great litigator performs. The question I heard was, “What can we do better as a trial team on the next engagement?” Consider how remarkable this is. Here was a litigator from a large law firm sincerely trying to improve the performance of his team and himself. I was deeply impressed, as this was the first time I've had someone ask that question after an engagement. It's a very sensible question, of course. A2L's team has worked with thousands of litigation teams from the very best law firms in the world. I have watched many litigators perform near-magic in the courtroom, and I have seen teams fail miserably. There are patterns that lead to success and patterns that lead to failure. In the spirit of the question that this litigator asked me, I started thinking about the traits of the world’s most effective trial teams. Here are 50 of them culled from my experience and that of my colleagues Dr. Laurie Kuslansky and Tony Klapper. Practice is by far the single most obvious indicator of a trial team's success. The great litigators draft their openings months or years in advance of trial and practice them dozens or hundreds of times. See, Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well Preparation. Great trial teams start preparing long before trial, and they don't ask the client’s permission to do so. Their attitude is, “If you work with a team like ours, it means you want to win and we know how to win and we're going to get that done, whatever it takes.” I think they are right. There are only a handful of law firms that I have observed that have this sense of preparation embedded in their litigation culture. See, The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation Great litigation teams want their answers questioned. Great litigators are confident. They are so confident that they open themselves up to rigorous scrutiny in their approach to trial. Through a whole host of methods, they invite criticism, suggestions, fresh pairs of eyes, lay people’s opinions, experts’ opinions, and they use all of these voices to perform at their best. See, Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators They lead, but they can be led too. Great litigators avoid dominating all discussions. They intentionally let others lead them and be seen as leaders. Download the Leadership for Lawyers eBook They just look comfortable in front of a jury. Confidence equals persuasiviness and humans are born with an expert ability to detect it.  See, A Harvard Psychologist Writes About Presenting to Win They build narratives early. They know how important a narrative is to winning a case. They have also learned from experience that the earlier this is done, the better. A well-constructed narrative can inform everything from briefing to discovery to witness preparation. Download The Opening Statement Toolkit

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting This is the fifth and final installment in a series of articles focused on how defense counsel can overcome the increasingly popular Reptile trial strategy. In parts one through four, I offered an introduction to the strategy, I shared ten ways to recognize when the strategy is being used against you, I explained why the strategy does not actually work in the way that its authors describe, and I explained that despite the bad science, the Reptile trial strategy still works. In this post, I summarize how to overcome the strategy in both the pretrial and trial phases of a case. I rely heavily on the work of Jill Bechtold of Marks Gray and Steve Quattlebaum of Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull. They were my co-presenters at a recent defense attorney-focused conference devoted to repelling the Reptile strategy. One theme that clearly emerges from the 12 points below is that being a good defense lawyer is more important than ever. No longer is it enough simply to outlast your opponent. No longer is it enough to come up with a great theme and narrative just before trial. Because the Reptile strategy often begins with the complaint, a defense against it must start shortly thereafter -- or you will pay the price later. Spot the Reptile: It can appear as late as closing arguments, but more often than not, plaintiffs counsel will introduce the key themes as early as the complaint. See, 10 Ways to Spot the Reptile in Action. Read the Book: I hate to say this, but you probably should read it. It is Reptile: The 2009 Manual of the Plaintiff’s Revolution by David Ball and Don Keenan. Spot your Opponent on the Reptile Hall of Fame: http://www.reptilekeenanball.com/reptile-allstars/ Plaintiffs counsel with a record of using the Reptile strategy are listed here. Is one your opponent?

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting In my previous three posts concerning the “Reptile” trial strategy, I provided an introduction to the strategy, I discussed how to spot it, and I discussed why the science that its authors claim supports the strategy is just plain wrong. As I have mentioned in previous articles, this trial strategy has been largely absent from the types of cases that we work on at A2L. However, with high-stakes pattern litigation on the rise, and with the increase in sophistication on the plaintiffs side in big-ticket litigation, the “Reptile” is something that medium and large law firm defense firms must be able to spot and to cope with. In this article, I will focus on the critical fact that, despite the bad science that its authors employ, the Reptile trial strategy still works. In other words, the “Reptile” advocates are tapping into authentic ways of persuading jurors. There are at least seven reasons for that. The “Reptile” advocates suggest using a strong theme that is constantly reinforced throughout the case from complaint to closing. That's just good lawyering, and a majority of lawyers still don't do this. See 14 Differences Between a Theme and a Story in Litigation. Similarly, they encourage focusing on a consistent strategy from the very beginning of the case. Few defense counsel do this throughout a case, and again, following this practice is just good lawyering. See Planning For Courtroom Persuasion? Use a Two-Track Trial Strategy. They encourage the use of narrative as a persuasion strategy. We've written about that many times, and they are right to encourage it, because it works very effectively. Our proposed narratives are based on real psychological science and theirs are not, but the use of narrative is a very good idea. See $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation.

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  by Ryan H. Flax, Esq. (Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting In our two previous posts, we discussed two important roles that an opening statement can play: making you and your client appealing to the jurors, and telling a convincing story. Here are two other key functions for an opening statement.

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Witness Preparation: The Most Important Part

Ryan H. Flax (Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting

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